Boys are being born with testicles in the wrong place, and pollution could be to blame
- A new study found baby boys born in polluted areas were more likely to have undescended testicles.
- The condition, called cryptorchidism, can impact
reproductive healthif left untreated.
- There's mounting evidence that
chemicalsare decreasing human reproductive potential to the point of eventual extinction.
A new study adds to a mounting body of research suggesting
Researchers from France's national public
For the study, published on March 17 in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers looked at 89,382 French boys who have cryptorchidism, a genetic birth defect where one or both testes are missing, or undescended, from the scrotum.
Often, cryptorchidism resolves itself within the six months after a baby is born. But these French boys, all under age 7 and studied between 2002 and 2014, needed surgery to correct their cryptorchidism because it didn't go away on its own.
According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, 1 in 100 baby boys need this surgery before they turn 1, otherwise they could have lifelong reproductive problems and an increased risk of testicular cancer.
Cases of cryptorchidism that required surgery increased 36% between 2002 and 2014, the study authors found.
Mapping out where the boys lived, they found that boys who lived in more polluted regions, where coal mining used to take place, were more than twice as likely to have one undescended testicle. They were also five times more likely to have two undescended testicles.
Previous research suggests pollution is shrinking penises and lowering sperm counts
This isn't the first time researchers have observed environmental factors like pollution diminishing humans' potential reproductive abilities.
Epidemiologist Shanna Swan has spent two decades researching how our lifestyles and environments mess with our hormones and reproductive abilities.
In her new book "Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race," Swan uses her research to explain how invisible chemicals in dust, adhesives, and plastics are linked to plummeting sperm counts, smaller penises, and overall diminished reproductive ability in grownups, children, and unborn babies.
That's because these chemicals disrupt how the hormone endocrine is produced in the body. In turn, that disruption can contribute to obesity, lower IQs, premature birth. As Swan found, it can also decrease testosterone production, lower sperm counts, decrease fertility, and contribute to smaller penis size.
These endocrine disruptors can affect babies as they grow in the womb, if the person carrying them has been exposed to chemicals, according to Swan and other researchers' work. They can also be passed onto babies in breast milk, said Swan.
"Babies are now entering the world already contaminated with chemicals because of the substances they absorb in the womb," she wrote.
For our best chance at stopping the fertility-hindering effects of chemicals and plastics, Swan suggested limiting your exposure to these toxins in your day-to-day life.
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